Two weeks ago, I wrote that it was time to normalize trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba. President Obama has made some progress, but not enough and too slowly.
But I have not been to Cuba to see first-hand what the country is like or how it is faring after 55 years of forced economic and political alienation by our government. Of course, one reason for not visiting is that it is illegal, except under certain conditions, for Americans to travel to Cuba.
That travel ban, however, did not stop an Oneonta woman from visiting Cuba recently via an Australian tourism agency. The woman asked to remain anonymous since her clandestine trip could get her into trouble with our government. That fact alone illustrates how ridiculous our policies are regarding Cuba.
“I am allowed to go, but I am not allowed to spend any money there, which essentially is a Catch 22 to block me from going,’’ she said. “If the government wanted to prosecute, they could hit me with a very large fine.’’
Two weeks ago, I said I thought both the U.S. and Cuba would be better off if relations were normalized, and our economic punishment of our southern neighbor ended.
Our local visitor to Cuba spent two weeks traveling the length of the island from Havana to Baracoa by bus in a small group. She said she concluded that our embargo has little impact on Cubans.
“I was very surprised at how well they seem to be doing. I didn’t see any of the poverty I have seen in South American countries — everyone was clean, decently dressed and everyone gets a food allotment of necessary items from the government,’’ she said.
Other tourists in recent years have told me that there are shortages of some consumer goods such as toiletries.